At a Town Hall meeting last Friday in Topsham, Gov. Paul LePage decried those who use the state’s regulatory and judicial system to challenge environmental projects. LePage said, “We should not have a system where it takes you five years to have, get, obtain [sic] a permit for a project and have some dingbat file [an] erroneous lawsuit that is not gonna go anywheres [sic] except do one thing: delay. Delay, delay, delay.”
Although the Governor’s office has not confirmed what project he was referring to, his remarks apparently were aimed at a legal appeal of a proposal by Plum Creek corporation for a massive development in the Moosehead Lake region.
In 2005, Plum Creek filed an application with the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) for development zoning for two resorts and hundreds of separate house lots. Thousands of Maine citizens testified and wrote in opposition to the plan. However, after many changes, in September 2009, LURC approved new development zones on and around Moosehead Lake covering 17,000 acres. Up to three resorts and more than 2,000 residential units could be built there.
Three conservation organizations appealed approval of the project to Superior Court, which found that the LURC approval was illegal and sent the case back to the agency.
Jym St. Pierre, Maine Director of RESTORE: The North Woods, one of the public interest groups that appealed the Land Use Regulation Commission’s approval of the project, expressed surprise at the governor’s remarks.
“Gov. LePage seems confused about the administrative process. It was not conservation or citizen groups that delayed the Plum Creek project. The delays were caused by endless changes that were made to the proposal, first by Plum Creek and later by LURC,” said St. Pierre.
Neither the Governor nor members of his staff have explained how the appeal was “erroneous,” nor what errors of law were made by the Chief Superior Court Justice who issued the ruling.
Maine Attorney General William Schneider and Plum Creek have appealed the Superior Court ruling to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. That appeal will delay a new hearing by LURC on the project.
St. Pierre said, “The governor also seems confused about the legal process. At appropriate places along the way, we questioned approval of this project because it has huge, long-term implications for the state of Maine. The Superior Court agreed with us that the agency’s decision-making process was illegal. Now, the State is appealing that decision, which they have a right to do. It appears that the governor would like to take away everyone’s legal rights of appeal, whether the appeal is by a citizen’s group or the Maine Attorney General.”
Video of the Gov. LePage’s remarks can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avTgh-YZBq0&feature=channel_video_title